May 13th, 2012
Posts that I’ve done in the past discussing gear to get started in real estate photography have been some of the most popular posts on the blog. Every year or so I like to revisit the subject. The underlying assumption here is that you want to get started with the lowest possible cost. First some general principles:
- Don’t fool around with point-and-shoot (non-interchangeable lens) cameras: A primary gear driver in real estate photography is a good quality wide angle lens and this means you need a DSLR (interchangeable lenses). Don’t even think about using a wide angle converter that screws on a point and shoot, most are total crap!
- Ultra wide-angle glass is the most important gear you need: For real estate photography the range of effective focal lengths you will want is between 16mm and 24mm. Understand that low-end cropped sensor DSLRs have a 1.5 (Nikon) or 1.6 (Canon) multiplier effect on the effective focal lengths. Spending money on wide angle glass is far more important than spending it on a camera body. For a list of the possibilities see my lens table that shows all the major choices and a reader poll that lists what’s popular with PFRE readers.
- Which DSLR body you use doesn’t make much difference: What I mean is that compared to the wide angle lens you choose the DSLR body doesn’t have all that much effect on your results. I assume that if you are going for the lowest possible cost you will be starting out with a cropped sensor DSLR. See my Camera table that lists all the current choices and has a reader poll that shows what is the most popular.
- Everyone needs at least one flash: (Yongnuo or Nikon SB80-DX) Lighting is a key issue in real estate photography. While most successful interior photographers eventually realize that multiple small flashes are the way to get the best results, many start out shooting brackets, process with Exposure Fusion and eventually grow into multiple flash technique. Even if you are going to are going to start out shooting brackets, a single flash improves your results noticeably. This is why I recommend even beginners have at least one flash unit. For processing a series of brackets I recommend using Exposure Fusion (sometimes called blending). I think it’s best to stay away from HDR for interiors because it’s just too hard and too much work to do it well. I only know a handful of people that manage to do HDR interior well, and many of them have moved to Exposure Fusion because it is not as time consuming in post-processing.
- “Kit” lenses (the cheap lenses that manufacturers bundle with low-end DSLRs are not wide enough for interiors. Kit lens typically are in the 18-35mm range (28.8-56mm effective focal length on a Canon body) are not wide enough for shooting interiors.
- Consider used equipment for sale online: Check craigslist.org or ebay.com or amazon.com for used equipment. There is a lot of good used gear available online. You can save hundreds of dollars by purchasing used gear.
- Get a sturdy tripod for your camera: A Manfrotto or other similar sturdy tripod is adequate.
- Get an inexpensive tripod to use for a flash stand so you can get your flash off your camera and move it around independently of the camera.
- Move your flash off your camera: To move your flash off your camera you’ll need some kind of triggering device. My trigger page has a summary of the popular triggers used by real estate photographers and a reader poll that show’s the popularity of each.
- Use a circular polarizing filter for exterior shots: A polarizing filter is a must for external shots, it makes clouds look great, gives a saturated look to colors.
There is some classic real estate photography gear that’s worth highlighting:
- Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens: Even though this lens is close to twice as expensive as #2 this is the most popular wide angle lens for real estate photography. It’s quality is outstanding. This lens is designed for cropped sensors like Canon Rebels and only works on Canon cropped sensor DSLRs.
- Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 wide angle lens: This is the second most popular real estate photography lens. There’s a version for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, Sony and Samsung DSLR bodies. It’s quality is good but not as good as the Canon 10-22mm.
- Nikon SB-80dx flash: Even though they are hard to find because they are only available used these little guys are worth the $130 to $145 you’ll have to pay for them because they have sensitive built-in optical triggers and have very fine power adjustment.